We are now in the midst of election season, and despite the pundits’ musings (as will be explained later), the GOP is actually in decent shape at this point in the cycle.
Given the massive volume of polling data, plus the fact that pollsters have varying levels of accuracy, we gather data on federal, statewide, and (sometimes) Congressional races and take the average of those polls for the last two weeks (this “look back” will eventually become a week when we get close to Election Day). Once we get the averages, this is how we rate each race:
(1) Safe Democratic or safe Republican (dark blue/red) – A candidate either has a polling average of at least 50% and/or a 10 point lead in the polls;
(2) Lean Democratic or lean Republican (light blue/red) – A candidate has a 3-9 point lead in the polls;
(3) Tossup (yellow) – A candidate’s lead is less than 3 points in the polls;
(4) No race in 2014 (black) – For those states not holding gubernatorial or Senate race this year;
Dashboard statistics (last 14 days)
Obama job approval: 54-42% Disapprove (was 53-43% Disapprove)
Congressional job approval: 74-17% Disapprove (was 75-10% Disapprove)
Generic congressional vote: 45-42% Republican (was 42-42% Republican)
Direction of country: 64-26% wrong direction (was 66-24% wrong direction)
Obamacare approval: 53-40% Disapprove (was 53-43% Disapprove)
Commentary: The environment remains toxic for Democrats at the “kick off” of political season, and the GOP has for the past several weeks been pulling ahead in the generic Congressional vote. This could have negative implications for Democrats in less favorable areas in November.
Current: 55 Democrats, 45 Republicans
Polling average: 50 Republicans, 47 Democrats, 3 Tossups (was 50 Republicans, 45 Democrats, 5 Tossups)
Commentary: While the political experts lately been trumpeting the news about Democrats’ Senate chances “taking a small step forward”, the polling numbers only partially confirm this assertion. Let’s examine the fundamentals from a “spin free” perspective: (1) three open Democratic seats in Montana, South Dakota, and West Virginia are in the GOP corner by double digit margins, (2) Democratic incumbents in Alaska, Arkansas, and (recently added) Louisiana are falling behind their GOP challengers, and (3) Republicans have thus far protected their vulnerable seats in Georgia and Kentucky.
These fundamentals put the GOP at 51 seats. We had noted in a previous article that Kansas has become a wildcard, since the GOP incumbent was basically caught napping with regards to his tenuous connections to his home state. Further complicating the race is that the race features both a Democrat and an Independent, and the Democrat recently dropped out, although this action has become embroiled in litigation. Poll numbers show this race a tossup, although we think at this point that in this 60-38% Romney state, there are GOP votes to spare for Senator Roberts. And with the election more than six weeks away, the GOP incumbent has time to rebuild his coalition.
Even with GOP problems in Kansas, you’re still looking at 49-51 Senate seats for the GOP (the Louisiana race will likely not be settled until December 6). Then you have two Democratic seats (in Iowa and Colorado) which are tossups, and three more Democratic seats (in Michigan, New Hampshire and North Carolina) where the average Democratic “lead” is in the 4-5% range. And the blunt reality is, in a toxic environment like this, in states that were NOT strongly for Obama, the Democrats are not going to have a “clean sweep” of these five seats that are in “tossup” or “leans Democratic” status.
All in all, you’re looking at a US Senate that has 49-56 Republicans when the US Senate convenes next January.
Current: 30 Republicans. 20 Democrats
Polling average: 28 Republicans, 17 Democrats, 5 Tossups (was 28 Republicans, 18 Democrats, 4 Tossups)
Commentary: Governorships are one area where the GOP is not (nor should they be) anticipating any gains. There are several reasons for this: (1) their huge success in 2010 means those same governors’ chairs must be defended – and some of those chairs are in less favorable states, and (2) several GOP incumbents have been controversial in office. What helps the GOP, however, is that there are several Democratic governors who are term limited, and there are therefore some GOP pickup opportunities.
Recent polling has been almost unilaterally favorable to the GOP. From an offensive standpoint, the Colorado statehouse (Democratic controlled for 32 of the last 40 years) is now a tossup. And the four term Democratic incumbent in Oregon is seeing his numbers soften somewhat. Defensively, the GOP incumbents in Florida and Michigan have improved enough in the polls for us to reclassify those races to “leans Republican.” Really, the only bad GOP news is the Hawaii governorship, although we’ve merely moved this race to “Tossup” – with sparse polling in that heavily Democratic state, poll results are all over the map.
Now that all primaries (except Louisiana’s, which is held in conjunction with the federal elections) have been held, the next milestone is early voting: voting is actually underway in five states (Georgia, Maine, Minnesota, North Carolina, and South Dakota).